Rail agencies are well placed to manage the forecast increase in passengers up to 2019, including joining the Sydney Metro Northwest to the network at Chatswood. Their plans and strategies are evidence-based, and mechanisms to assure effective implementation are sound.
1. Executive Summary
4. Key Findings
4.1 Measuring punctuality
4.1.1 Punctuality indicators
4.1.2 Accuracy of punctuality measurement
4.1.3 Transparency of punctuality results
4.2 Punctuality performance
4.2.1 Punctuality results
We analysed in more detail the punctuality of all trains operating from 1 July 2015 to 31 March 2016. The analysis is summarised in Appendix 4. The percentages to which the 92 per cent contract targets apply are shaded.
In general, the contract target for train punctuality was met or exceeded by a relatively large margin. The notable exceptions were suburban trains on the Western line (87.6 per cent) and Northern via Strathfield line (89.0 per cent), and intercity trains in the afternoon peak (84.7 per cent).
For completeness, we analysed the punctuality of trains that do not operate to or from the city (such as the Cumberland line that operates between Campbelltown and Schofields). Punctuality levels on these lines were relatively high.
Other points to note are that train punctuality:
- during the morning peak is higher than during the afternoon peak
- of suburban trains is higher than punctuality of intercity trains
- of suburban trains overall at all times of the day is relatively good.
Appendix 4 shows the Customer Delay Measure outcomes from July 2015 to April 2016. The target is for at least 90 per cent of customers to have a delay of no more than 4 minutes. Those lines for which the target was not met are shaded.
The South, Western and Northern via Strathfield lines and all intercity lines did not meet the Customer Delay Measure target during the afternoon peaks in the period analysed. Sydney Trains’ Customer Delay Measure averaged 3 minutes 1 second during the morning peak and 3 minutes 49 seconds during the afternoon peak.
We did not extend analysis of Customer Delay Measure beyond that in Appendix 4. Analysing Customer Delay Measure at a more detailed level is much more complex than analysing train punctuality because measurement is at the passenger rather than the train level. Transport for NSW is in the process of completing a proof-of-concept for a system to allow more in-depth analysis of Customer Delay Measure. Transport for NSW is also starting to incorporate Opal data into the Customer Delay Measure model to provide superior information on customer travel patterns than available to date.
4.2.2 Less punctual lines and services
4.2.3 Addressing poor punctuality
4.3 Maintaining punctuality in the future
The rail agencies are implementing strategies to maintain punctuality under pressure of increasing patronage until 2019. Transport for NSW is developing options to increase capacity and maintain punctuality after 2019. A costed plan is some way from being put to the government. Punctuality could come under pressure sooner if recent above-forecast patronage growth continues.
Patronage increases are likely to present a significant challenge to maintaining punctuality into the future. The rail agencies have plans in place to address this challenge up to and including joining the Sydney Metro Northwest to the network at Chatswood in 2019. The various plans and strategies are being managed by experienced staff, with good governance arrangements, quality assurance processes and planning systems are in place.
The rail system in its current form will struggle to maintain punctuality beyond 2019 based on projections of patronage growth and system limitations. From 2024, the Sydney Metro City and Southwest will help by extending the metro network from Chatswood under Sydney Harbour, through the city and out to Bankstown. Recently established initiatives to better integrate land use and transport planning, and effective use of behavioural insights to modify passenger travel patterns, could also assist.
A significant increase in capacity of the existing heavy rail network is also needed to limit overcrowding and maintain targeted levels of punctuality. Transport for NSW is working on strategies to increase capacity but has not yet put a costed plan to the Government. Its aim is to do so by the third quarter of this (2017) calendar year.
Given the likely lead times for major infrastructure investment, there is a risk of poor punctuality after 2019 based on current patronage growth forecasts. If patronage continues to increase at a faster rate than forecast, particularly during the morning peak period, the network will face difficulties sooner. The rail agencies advise they are working to better understand passenger growth levels, trends and drivers.
Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW should:
- maintain effective oversight and resourcing for all strategies designed to address rail patronage growth
- adjust strategies for any patronage growth above projection.
Transport for NSW should:
- ensure that programs to address rail patronage growth over the next five to ten years are provided to the Government for Cabinet consideration as soon as possible
- explore the potential to use behavioural insights to encourage more passengers to travel outside the height of the morning peak (8 am to 9 am).
Sydney Trains, NSW Trains and Transport for NSW should improve the accuracy of patronage measurement and develop a better understanding of patronage growth trends.
4.3.1 Impact of patronage growth to date
Source: Audit Office analysis of data from Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW.
The capacity of the network to run more trains is declining
Transport for NSW is using the timetable to move some passengers from more crowded to less crowded trains by changing the stations at which trains stop. This increases journey times for some people and is symptomatic of the diminishing scope to add train services during peak periods in some parts of the network.
Source: Audit Office analysis of data from Sydney Trains.
Source: Audit Office analysis of data from Sydney Trains.
4.3.2 Maintaining punctuality in 2019
The relatively new field of behavioural insights may offer opportunities to ‘nudge’ some passengers into different travel patterns with benefits for them and the network.